Monthly Archives: February 2016

Oops. Sorry.

“Oops, sorry,” And “uh-oh” seem to be two very common words in a child’s vocabulary. In fact, “uh-oh” was in the “top ten” of first words spoken for each of my children. It was my nephew’s first word, which he mastered at only eight months.

I thought it interesting how children are so aware of when they make mistakes and blunders—which are such a common part of childhood. Children strongly sense our acceptance and approval because it is a need for them to feel accepted and loved; they also recognize the lack of those, especially when they make mistakes.

It’s easy to get frustrated when the same child has made the same mistake, yet again! However, we have to understand that our reactions to their mistakes will develop into their reactions at their mistakes. If we view childish blunders as “the end of the world”, or respond sharply or angrily, they will learn to fear mistakes, and will grow with a mistaken view of that state called “mistake”.

When we do something wrong, we usually hope no one noticed, and we jump at the chance to start again and do it right the next time around. How much more so should we give our kids the chance to try again, without judgment or labeling?

As a child, I was freaked out about making mistakes and screwing things up. I remember one summer when we went for a weekend camping trip. We were at a table with some friends we had made in a room with 50+ other tables, all full of vacationers. I knocked over my glass of orange juice and it spilled on my new friend’s plate of food. No one even reacted strongly or harshly but I was so mortified that I began to cry and it took me a few minutes to compose myself. I can’t remember how I first developed such a fear of mistakes, but it was deeply ingrained. As a teen, my perception slowly changed and grew into the fact that mistakes can be learning experiences and failures can be stepping stones to greater things.

When I became a mother, I hoped my children would never have that same fear of “failure”, but would have a healthier perception of it. I tried to encourage them and adopted a simple saying in our household of, “It’s okay. We all make mistakes.”

We had visitors over for dinner one evening when the inevitable happened. My daughter, who was four at the time, spilled her cup of water. She was stunned and looked up at me. I jumped up for a towel without saying a word. By the time I got back from the kitchen, our guest quipped a few words to try to liven the situation. It had the opposite effect and I saw the tears forming in my daughter’s eyes. I remembered that moment of mortification from years back and wished I could save her from it.

“Could you help me wipe the floor?” I asked her, giving her something to do. “You’re real good at cleaning the floor.”

She smiled and got off her chair. “It’s okay. We all make mistakes,” I whispered as we cleaned the mess together. The rest of the dinner proceeded without incident.

The next day, when I spilled some water in the classroom, my daughter was quick to say, “It’s okay. We all make mistakes.”

We do, and we always will. When we realize that and treat mistakes as such, we help our children gain a positive outlook on “failure” and give them the power to try again.

(A “repost” from 2011)

Memories Blessed

Since becoming a mother, I sometimes think back on my own mother and my childhood, and at times find myself comparing my mothering skills against my mother’s. Needless to say, I always come up short. She was a mother of six, and loved being a full-time “mom.” I have half that number and yet I feel I struggle with being a “good mom” on a daily basis.

My Mom at 16

My Mom at 16

She taught her children at home until high school age. I am more or less still in “early learning” stage as far as teaching my children and am not sure whether I will be able to keep up with every aspect of their training—educational, physical, spiritual, etc. I remember only very rare occasions when my mother would raise her voice or get upset about something one of us did.

I was recently recalling to my mother a memory from my childhood. She asked a question about my perception of it, and I let her know that I recalled only one or two times she got upset at us children, and those times were without a doubt well-deserved moments. My mom said something to the effect of, “Wow, you must have a very rosy memory. You were great kids but I don’t know that I did such a marvelous job.”

Hearing those words from “the world’s best mom” gave me hope. Could it be that we are at times more harsh and judgmental of ourselves than others—our children included—are? I recently watched a movie called The Final Cut (not a great movie, by the way), which portrayed the point that personal memories of an event are often skewed and we don’t always remember the exact details. We remember certain parts of things better, perhaps the emotions we had at the time, or a particular highlight, and over time, even that becomes hazy or somewhat altered.

The Bible says that the memory of the just is blessed. This is probably for the most part because God blesses His children and thus we remember these many blessings. Another meaning could be that the memories are blessed because we have chosen to dwell on the positive and beneficial aspects of life rather than the difficulties or challenges. Having those “blessed” memories probably also requires some effort on our part, choosing to let go of any guilt, or desires of perfectionism in parenting.

A successful parent is a positive and happy parent who makes the attempt to highlight the more positive and uplifting aspects of any situation. In thinking back once more, that is probably what I remember most about my mother and her parenting skills. She was positive—not Mary Poppins, but she was sincere.

My prayer is that my children remember somewhat the same thing when they are grown … not a successful-but-too-busy-to-take-time-for-us mother, not a perfect-but-unrealistic mother, but a happy and sincere mother.

Most of all, a mother who loves them, and shows it in some way every day.

On the Farm “I Spy”

Can you spy 15 sheep among this equipment on the farm?

On the Farm I Spy

Art and concept by Aiden, 6 years old.

Please leave a comment if you’ve found all the sheep (or even if you didn’t). Aiden would be thrilled to hear from you.

Mundane, yet magical

It was another day. For some reason, “another day” no longer held the magic and excitement it had once held. My life and circumstances had changed and there didn’t seem to be much to be inspired about. Days were slowly merging together into something I vowed I would never have—a weary and dreary sense of existence. There was cleaning, cooking and kids, day after day—and not much else, it seemed. One morning, I attempted to figure out what was wrong. Every day should have a bit of magic sprinkled throughout it, I pondered. Where was the magic?

I needed to get the house cleaned that morning, so I let the kids know they had the morning free from school. They were excited and ran to find something to do. That was when they found the box. It was an empty box, nothing special inside it—nothing at all inside it. It was a plain box—no painting, no markings, no decorations. I was soon to find out that this not-so-special box was, in fact, quite special indeed.boy hiding in box

At first, it was a train coach, carrying them to a far-off and much-anticipated destination. Then it was a boat, keeping them safe through a giant storm. Afterwards, it was an easel, where each one of them could decorate and draw to their heart’s content. Again and again it morphed, from house to airplane to hiding place. The entire morning passed quickly for them in their magical box. As I watched them laughing  and pretending as they climbed in and out of that worn, old box, I realized the magic had been there all along; no, not in the box—in the minds and hearts of my children, and in the many things they found exciting, amusing, and wonderful. It must be there in my own heart as well, I thought.

Magic was in every corner of the house—with its potential for imagination to take wings. It hid in the garden, the front yard and beyond—each place a chance for new discovery and experiences. It waited in the stories I read to them and made up for them—that would inspire their minds, encourage their spirits, speak to their hearts.

And yes, magic was in a big, plain box on its way to the recycling bin, a box that was just waiting for its chance to become a source of joy for three young children.

I looked around. There was still a lot of cleaning and more of the “same ol’ same ol’”, but it would have to wait. It was time to experience some magic, and, this time around, I knew just where it was hiding.

Doing the Parenting Thing All Wrong

kid with painted hand

Have you ever realized, one fine morning, that you’re doing the parenting thing all wrong? Not every parenting thing in every way. For me, it was in something that could be considered the most important … because its essence is forgiveness and grace.

I’ve been reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. In chapter four, the author states, “[The saved sinner] knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven.” I read that and I thought of one of my children. Just yesterday (and the day before) I had talked with my child about “justifying” … these days, we call it “owning.” Own your mistakes. Don’t make excuses. Only then can you learn from them and move on. You’ll be perpetually stuck in the same place if you can’t admit it when you’ve done something wrong.

It’s all fair advice, but I’ve been going at it the wrong way. “Repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven.” I am reading that book because of grace. The concept, the gift, the wonder that it is.

In my work as freelance editor, last year, one manuscript after another that I’ve edited has touched on the theme of grace. I’ve picked up books at used books sales or at the recommendation of a friend. Grace. I’ve listened to Christian radio, and my favorite bands are singing about grace.

Over the past year, I realized time and again that although I’ve accepted the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for 30+ years now, I never quite caught grace. With every book I read or edited, every song I heard or sang along with, I was broadsided with the epic wonder of grace. Because I so quickly forget it. Gloss it over. Stand on it, forgiven, yet fail to extend it to others.

This is what was doing with my kids. I’ve expected them to first “own” their mistakes or apologize … then I’ll forgive them. Then I’ll be gracious. It’s not like I’m standing over them saying, “I won’t forgive you until you apologize,” but I’m conveying that they need to own it in order to make things right. I’m teaching them to be responsible, right? Not to grow up with the victim mentality that “it’s-everyone’s-fault-but-mine.”

Important, yes … but not vital.

Not vital like the grace that says, “The saved were home before they started,” that says, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Not after we apologized. Not once we pulled up our socks or made a show of shame. He died for us while we were in the middle of the muck and mire of this sin-stained world. And He continues to extend grace every moment of every day.

Every moment. Of every day. I don’t understand it. But it rings with such deep truth that it ripples into eternity.

God, help me to do offer grace and forgiveness to my children, to those around me. I’ll never “get it” because Your grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love are beyond comprehension. But it doesn’t mean I can’t give it to others. Your grace is enough. Always.